Guide to Driving in France
- Driving Offences and Penalties
- Importing and Registering a Vehicle
- Vehicle Registration Process & Transfer of Ownership
- Vehicle Registration Taxes
- MOT Vehicle Tests
- Obtaining a French Driving Licence
- Use of Vehicle Accident Forms
- Crit'Air Emissions Sticker
7. Use of Vehicle Accident Forms in France
In practice, the procedure for reporting vehicle accidents in France is much the same as elsewhere within Europe, where a standard form for vehicle accident reporting is in use.
In English, the form is known as the 'European Accident Statement', while the French version is called the 'Constat Européen d'Accident' (or the colloquial, 'Constat amiable'). They are issued by the insurers and are available on-line.
The form requires that the parties exchange information, agree the basic circumstances of the accident, including a sketch, and sign the form. The information provided does not require that either party admits liability.
There is also a personal declaration that is prepared by each driver, but this need not be done at the scene of the accident, and is not a statement that is jointly agreed.
Contrary to popular belief, completion of the form is not compulsory and neither are you obliged to carry one in your car; it is merely a voluntary procedure for the self-reporting of accidents which has been agreed by the insurance industry.
That being the case, even though not compulsory, you are more likely to stay on the right side of your insurer if you do use it.
However, whilst the form follows a standard format across Europe, the French version may still mean it may be difficult for those involved in the accident to communicate with one another, let alone agree the contents of the form! Once completed and signed, the information provided on the form is irrevocable.
Clearly, therefore, if you are not competent enough in the French language do not be pressurised into signing the form; either agree to completion of those aspects of the form you do understand and agree, or simply undertake an exchange of personal details.
One other solution might be to carry both French and English language versions in your car so you can use one as a translator. There are also bi-lingual versions available.
Whether or not you complete the form, if you are insured in France, you are required to notify your French insurer within five days of the accident, or you lose your right to make a claim.
This makes it imperative you send the form or notify them by recorded delivery, or by hand, in both cases obtaining a delivery receipt.
As well as damages to the vehicles, you should ensure you record any injuries, as it could later make it more difficult to claim compensation if they were not recorded at the time of the accident.
Indeed, where you feel the other driver is at fault, or there are injuries, you should insist that the police are called as this may generate a formal police report, particularly if it is a serious accident.
Other useful points which are worthy of note:
- Make sure you also get the correct details of the other driver, notably by checking the insurance policy number given against the certificate on the windscreen.
- If the other driver refuses to cooperate with completion of the form, then complete that part relating to your own vehicle yourself and send it off to your insurer.
- It is probably an idea not to waste too much time trying to convince the other driver, which might be better used getting an independent witness statement from someone who was not in either of the vehicles.
- Another useful approach is to take as many photos of the accident as possible.
A driver who flees an accident without at least identifying themselves is guilty of a criminal offence.
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